Any techie or fan of Ray Kurzweil will love this book. If the narration bothers you - crank the replay speed up to x1.5 or even x2.
Geek of Many Trades
Ok Ray, we got it. You're a smart dude. Do you have to beat us over the head with your brilliance?
The initial essay about exponential growth sets the stage for Kurzweil's latest tome about the looming man-machine merger. Basically, Kurzweil shows that technological change is occurring not just at exponential rates but that the rate that the rate is changing is also exponential. It's pretty easy to look at one area of technology - computers, medicine, robotics, communication, etc. - and only perceive linear or mildly exponential growth. But Kurzweil points out that all technology crosses over. The exponential growth in computer technology influences the growth rate of medical technology. Improved medical technology influences communication. Imagine, for instance, the impact Steve Jobs had on the iPhone because of the medical technology the staved off his pancreatic cancer. Arguably, Jobs' best years were the last few before his death.
After this basic math lecture, Kurzweil then starts deconstructing everything from Wolfram's "New Kind of Science" to the blood-brain-barrier. He uses this deconstruction to minutely detail his predictions for when the Singularity will occur. This is the part of the book that gets a little tedious.
I haven't made it to the end of the book yet but it has shifted my thinking quite a bit about the Singularity. I used to take a fairly strong stance against AI, siding closely with Hubert Dreyfus. But even Dreyfus leaves open the possibility of modeling the physical brain as a path to AI. Kruzweil entirely bases his predictions on that modeling process and not on simulating human intelligence in software.
As for the recording... The volume level is consistent. The reader's voice does crack at times. I would appreciate a little more emotion in the reading but it's definitely not robotic.
Say something about yourself!
I haven't read the print, so I can't say if the audiobook is better, but I can definitely see how some people might prefer reading this, as there is some math and statistics in the book.
All the intriguing future predictions made me optimistic towards the future and the story about Kurzweil switching places with Ramona, the AI personality at a TED conference is a fun part.
There are occasionally dialogues that I guess are supposed to give a more clear view of what all the different new technologies would mean to a typical individual. This is a neat idea and one I kind of liked, but read out loud with a slow monotone robot voice they can get a bit boring (you will hear the phrase
Narration is clearly one of the weakest links in this audio book. Actually, the narrator is pretty terrible. At first I thought this was being read by some kind of text-to-voice software Kurzweil has developed. And was saying to myself,
World of Sci-fi stories is coming, sooner than you thought.
All the cool future predictions and clear reasoning why they are actually plausible make this a great book to listen. The way it's being read, and the way it's been written to, I guess a pretty advanced listener, make it a bit of a hard read. For me at last the content made it worth the work.
I really wanted to like this book. I find the subject matter fascinating, though Dr. Kurzweil's predictions do seem overly optimistic. The author also seems to take a bit of a meandering path from one concept to another with no solid logical path between them. However, the main reason I rated this book poorly is the narrator. His delivery is so painful I can't listen for more then 20 minutes without drifting off. I wonder if George K. Wilson has already experienced the singularity and all the parts of him that comprise human emotion, personality, and speech have been replaced by artificial components. Yes, it is really that bad. My advice would be buy the book in written format and read it. Unless you're a masochist in which case listening to this book while kneeling on broken glass should be right up your alley!
The prolog to the book and the broad idea it sketches out are very intriguing and thought provoking (so are the charts provided on tantor's site). My interest quickly faded though as I listened to the first 4 hours of the book. I found myself frustrated as Kurzweil would set out a big idea but then do an awful job at pursuing it in more detail. The analysis and argument are not very rigorous or convincing (with the exception of the charts) and the language is dull and repetitive. The dialogues with
This book is amazing, yet intense. It has some parts that can be very "scientific" to the humble reader.
It is ok to let your mind wander while the narrator goes into formulas and other math that you may find difficult. Don't let it ruin your pleasure since this book encompasses some mind opening concepts that you wouldn't find anywhere else.
Imaginative and Intelligent, if a bit quirky.
I have no idea
No, but that would be pretty rare for me.
This is a work written by an inventor of considerable genius who is obsessed with resurrecting his dead father, after which they would live happily ever after - literally. Mr. Kurzwiel believes in the amalgamation of human beings with super-intelligent (and of course immortal) computing machines, which he claims will occur by approximately mid-twentieth century. He posits a rather fascinating and unorthodox
The writer. He comes to ontological conclusions bordering on serious mysticism.
Automaton, steady, even
This book is one amazing look at the thoughts and predictions of one of the most brilliant visionaries of the 21st century. This book is Kurzweil's tour de force, he has spared no expense (as you can see from the 24 hour length of the recording). The narration can be dry at times, but it is understandable given the technical nature of the material. That said, it is still a great listen, and very informative (even if it feels like he's repeating himself at times).
To give a quick overview of what the book is about (without giving away too much), basically Kurzweil tracks trends in technology, going back hundreds of years (or more), and then predicts what he believes will happen in the near future. And he does not just pull things out of his pants, he does the math and makes very strong cases for all his conjecture. Some of the things discussed include robotics, nano-machines, bio-technology, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the merging of all these things with humans.
It is a very entertaining read for anyone interested in knowing what the future may hold.
Yes, we will use technology to make life better - as much as we can but I see that as part of evolution. The thing that Ray ignores in history are the little hiccups (like the dark ages, ice ages, etc...). He thinks that everything will continue accelerating but in history there are these little speed bumps to consider.